Order of Leopold II, Grand Cross (1951-)
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The Order of Leopold II was established by King Leopold II by an unpublished decree on August 24, 1900. It was originally created as an Order of the Congo Free State, but it was later integrated into the national hierarchy of decorations in Belgium after the Congo Free State ceased to exist as a private domain of King Leopold II in 1908. The King is Grand Master.
Since 1908, the Order has been conferred upon Belgian citizens and foreigners as a symbol of gratitude for exemplary service rendered to the King of Belgium. It is generally awarded in recognition of long careers in public service to those over 40 years old. The Order was conferred upon all fallen Belgian soldiers and Non-Commissioned Officers in the First World War.
There are a number of different clasps that have been awarded with the Order: a palm branch clasp with the cypher of Albert I was awarded to military personnel for war merit during the First World War, a black enamelled bar clasp was worn on decorations awarded to mothers of the fallen in the First World War, a palm branch clasp with the cypher of Leopold III was awarded to military personnel for war merit in the Second World War or the Korean War, and a palm branch clasp (without royal monogram) was awarded to military personnel for war merit in the Second World War or the Korean War. At present, a crossed swords clasp is awarded to military personnel for war merit, as well as to war veterans, and a gold star is awarded to civilians for mention in official dispatches. A ribbon bordered in gold, or with a gold stripe down the centre, is awarded to civilians for war merit.
There are three versions of the Grand Cross which differ in obverse inscription. The first version has an inscription that translates to “Labour and Progress.” The second and third versions have an obverse inscription that translates to “Strength in Unity,” but it appears on the second version in French and on the third version in French and Dutch. All three versions feature the cypher of Leopold II on the reverse.
The Grand Cross is generally reserved for foreign diplomats.
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